Early last month, a convicted Venezuelan terrorist escaped from prison in Caracas. Suddenly he showed up in southern Miami.
The fugitive Raul Diaz Pena was sentenced to nine years in prison for plotting explosives in foreign consulates in Venezuela. This past May, he was given benefits by the Venezuelan government for weekend visits to work, go to school and stay with family.
His first public appearance since he fled the prison in Caracas was with Republican congresswoman Eleana Ros-Lenhtinen in her Miami office.
“I have worked tirelessly to bring attention to his plight urging both the US State Department and OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to take action in support of his rights and his freedom,” said Ros-Lehtinen during a press conference on September 10th, 2010.
Ros-Lehtinen has long been a defender of exiles who have been convicted of terrorism seeking sanctuary in the United States.
The Congresswoman’s admission that she had been lobbying the US government to bring the convicted terrorist to the US was quickly accompanied by an interview with CNN. Where Pena was praised for his escape to the US and again labeled a political prisoner.
In an interview with a right wing Miami station, Pena talks about his escape.
The host of Mega TV asked “you had everything planned out?”
“Yes, I had everything planned out,” Diaz responded.
The host commended those helping him, “How good they helped you, how much did it cost then?”
“One hundred thousand dollars,” Diaz said.
It is an incident that shocked the Venezuelan government and has led to speculation that Pena received his VISA from this US Embassy in Caracas. An accusation the State Department neither confirms nor denies.
The Venezuelan Ambassador to the US, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, told RT, “The US should have acted right away in giving us information and taking all the preventive action.”
RT spent three days trying to get answers to this puzzle from various government agencies. The State Department, the primary agency that issues visas, directed all our questions to the Department of Homeland Security, where we were sent to a low level agency for border control. We received no responses from any of them regarding Pena’s case.
But RT isn’t the only camp receiving the runaround. Numerous requests from the Venezuelan government have also not been addressed.
“They said you have to talk to Homeland Security, they say we have to talk to the FBI, or whatever. The only way out is for the United States to respond promptly to Venezuela. Where is this guy? Who gave him the visa in Trinidad? And what is the status of this person here? And to comply with international law and the agreements between these two countries and to arrest this guy and bring him back to Venezuela,” said Ambassador Herrera.
Pena's case is not unique.
The most deadly attack against the island nation of Cuba was conducted by former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles. The Cuban born Venezuelan exile was convicted of terrorism following the 1976 airliner bombing, which killed over 70 people. The U.S. has not responded to petitions to extradite Carriles back to the Venezuela.
Ambassador Herrera said, “It tells you that the US is not really involved in a fight, in a real fight against terrorism. I think this is a turning point. Again, this is imperial mentality. Two rules, rules for everyone else and no rules for us.”
It's the story of a convicted terrorist turned political prisoner, similar to the ones that left bloody trails in the past now comfortably residing in the United States.
“Most people who are not from the United States who try to go to the United States know how difficult it is to obtain a VISA to enter the United States, especially if you are from Latin America. Tens of thousands of visas are denied to Venezuelans every year,” said Golinger.
She explained that it appears Diaz was given a VISA to enter the US, either by the embassy in Venezuela or possibly in Trinidad, where he made a stop before reaching Miami.
“What happened when he entered at customs and immigration? When his passport went through the system didn’t it come up that he was a fugitive from justice, that he had been convicted in Venezuela for terrorism? I mean, here the US is waging this international war on terrorism, yet it’s giving free entry and inviting in convicted terrorists that act against countries that the US doesn’t necessary agree with,” Golinger said.
Golinger added that the US has a double standard on terrorism, referring to Diaz as a political prisoner instead.
The US State Department has still failed to respond to Venezuelan inquiries regarding the situation.
“I would be interested to see if anyone around the world would put a figure involved in some kind of terrorism against the United States on their television and lauded them as some kind of hero, what the US reaction would be. I’m sure it would not be friendly,” said Golinger.